Co-written with ex-Burnley star Paul Fletcher, the novel is set in 1974 and takes real characters from the world of football to the backdrop of some very real political issues during the General Election.
Below is an extract from chapter 19 of the book featuring some of Don Revie's famous Leeds United team:
"For the visit of Leeds United, he had drilled home the message all week that they had to be at their best, and they had to fight like hell to dominate the game. Leeds were one of those teams whose reputation was worth a goal every game.
Even watching them stride from the coach, smiling at the booing that greeted them, captain Billy Bremner waving nicely at a fan screaming, ‘You dirty bastard, Bremner, I hope Taffy Rees breaks your fucking neck,’ manager Don Revie head down, determined, gruff – even then, they looked scary. When they went out to warm up, they seemed to relish the abuse that rained down on them.
Johnny Giles, with the innocent look of a choirboy but, Gordon had reminded his team, ‘even dirtier than Bremner and harder than Hunter’, couldn’t resist shouting back at the fan who called him a dirty Irish bastard, ‘Must be nice for you losers to have a big club here for once, eh?’
Sadly, he had passed a late fitness test. They intimidated players and referees. They even intimidated the ball boys. From back to front, from David Harvey in goal to Willie Buchanan’s hero Eddie Gray on the left wing, this was as hard a group of players as you could wish for, a team and a culture entirely made in Revie’s image. Winning was all that mattered. Do what it takes. Nothing else matters.
The trouble was they could play too. Reaney, Charlton, Hunter, Cherry – fuck me, Gordon said to himself as he looked at the team line-ups on the programme, what he wouldn’t give for a defence like that. Reaney was a brilliant defender, a fierce competitor and very hard to get past. Cherry and Gray on the left, what a bloody combination. Bremner and Giles – how could two tiny men be so fearsome?
Just seeing their names on the sheet, Bremner at four, Giles at ten, and thinking back to the damage they did last time they were here, Gordon felt his confidence sinking a little. Peter Lorimer, another hard Scot, reckoned to have the fastest shot in the League, Mick Jones and Allan Clarke up front, Gray out wide. On the bench Paul Madeley, always so composed playing the ball out from the back – he would walk into any team in the League, Gordon said to himself, and yet there he was as a sub.
Ronnie Winston had arrived, and popped his head round the door. ‘OK, boss?’ ‘We are going to have to be on our game today,’ Gordon said. ‘And they are going to have to be off it.’ ‘Let’s focus on the first, eh boss? Nothing we can do about the second.’
Then he walked off to the dressing room, leaving Gordon to ponder that his Number Two had just talked to him as though he was Number One. Maybe it was inevitable. For now, as he saw the players arriving in dribs and drabs, and then heard the fuss in the corridor as Leeds United arrived, it was time to push all negativity aside, and try to get his players up for it. He knew from his own playing days that players do not take in too much from the final pre-match team talk.
Friday’s was, in his view, the most important meeting of the week. Today was all about mood, instilling a bit of confidence, reminding them of a small number of key points. First, as always, he went to wash his hands – and clear his head. As he walked back into the centre of the dressing room, Winston with his arms folded beside him, things went quiet. The players seated on the ramshackle mix of chairs and benches, he was brief and to the point.
‘I’ve no need to tell you, Leeds are a formidable team. It’s March and they are top of the table and they’ve got there by bending all the rules in the book. You know it, everyone knows it. They are a bunch of bullies. So what do you do with bullies? You fight back. You outbully them, do you understand me?
'Their first corner, Jules, you track back, you’re on Cherry, you make sure his feet don’t get off the ground. DD, Norman Hunter, he’s yours. He only understands one language. Make sure he hears it. Brownie, Charlton may be bigger than you, but make sure when he giraffes his way up for a corner that you won’t be pushed around. OK?
'Dyce, Eddie Gray is to my money the best winger in the world – apart from Dipper and Smudger obviously. Just remember this – he shall not pass. OK?
'Our fans hate Leeds. I hate Leeds. You hate Leeds. We all hate Leeds. Make sure they know it...'
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